(Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire)
Editor’s note: This article is part of our Team Preview series as our staff covers all 32 teams entering the 2018-2019 season. Check out every team’s preview here.
Will the Detroit Lions finally have a 100-yard rushing game this season? If you haven’t been paying attention to this saga, you may not be aware that it has been nearly five YEARS since the Lions last had a player rush for over 100 yards in a single game. Thanksgiving 2013 was the last time. Legitimately. If that makes you wary to draft a Lions running back, well you should be. Unless you’re in a PPR league, where they have slightly more value thanks to OC Jim Bob Cooter’s tendency to feature his running backs in the passing game.
Otherwise, this team’s fantasy contributions figure to be about the same, even with a new head coach. Stafford is still a viable QB1. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are great WR2’s. Luke Willson replaces Eric Ebron, and shouldn’t be touched in most fantasy formats. For more details, check out below:
(QB1) Matthew Stafford
Stafford falls right around the 8-10 range among quarterbacks, and if you can snag him as your QB1 or a high-end QB2 you’ll be in good shape. Jim Bob Cooter’s offense meshes well with Stafford’s skillset, mainly getting the ball up in the air. Additionally, the Lions have a trio of solid receivers in Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay. It’s possible the team tries to go to the run game more with rookie Kerryon Johnson and veteran LeGarrette Blount in the fold, but this is still Stafford’s offense.
He isn’t the most consistent option, but his best games can win weeks with ease. Take him as your QB1, but have a solid QB2 for when those bad weeks look like they’re a-coming.
(WR2) Golden Tate
Tate, like a lot of the players in Detroit’s offense, sees his value considerably boosted in PPR formats. He had 92 receptions last season, but only barely eclipsed 1,000 yards and only have five touchdowns. That type of production can be expected once again in 2018, with the same quarterback, same offensive coordinator and same receiving core surrounding him. I do think he has the potential to add a few more touchdowns, which could vault him into top-15 WR category. In PPR, go ahead and treat him as a low-end WR1. In standard, he’s a rock-solid WR2 that you can plug and play.
(WR2) Marvin Jones
Raise your hand if you knew that Marvin Jones finished last season as the No. 5 receiver in standard fantasy formats. No? I thought not. Jones had nine touchdowns last season, primarily because he received 43% of Detroit’s red zone targets. That figure may not change next season, as Eric Ebron was one of Detroit’s few other red zone targets, and he is gone. Jones is also a deep ball threat, which makes him unpredictable week in and week out, but means he will likely finish around the top 15 wide receivers yet again in 2018. Understand the volatility of drafting a player like Jones, but don’t be afraid to target him in the WR15-20 range if he is still around.
(RB3) Kerryon Johnson
All the talk in Lions training camp has been about how solid the rookie Johnson has looked. He is expected to split No. 1 back duties with Blount however, which hurts both of their value this season. Add in the fact that both Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick are in the fold and you have a full-on trainwreck.
Johnson’s primary advantage is his ability to catch passes out of the backfield, and his co-pilots complete inability to do the same. Blount won’t be counted on in the passing game, so if Johnson can gain the trust of OC Jim Bob Cooter, he could serve as a three-down back with Blount taking on more of a goal line role. Should that be the case, Johnson could easily return RB2 value.
For that reason, he is worth taking as a RB3/Flex play this season. He carries some risk, but any rookie RB does. There’s a reason he is one of the highest climbing RB’s heading into Week 2 of training camp.
(RB4/5) LeGarrette Blount
The Lions haven’t had a 100-yard rusher since 2013. They have a very, very bad offensive line. They have a dynamic rookie running back in Kerryon Johnson, and return two elite pass-catching backs in Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. OC Jim Bob Cooter loves his running backs to catch passes out of the backfield, which Blount is, shall we say, horrible at. Why did the Lions sign him again? Beats me, but it’s a mistake you don’t have to make on your fantasy teams. Sure he will get some goal line opportunities, but he is not worth the extremely low floor that he possesses in this offense.
(TE3) Luke Willson
The Lions rid themselves of perennial disappointment Eric Ebron this offseason, instead replacing him with hometown hero Luke Willson. Willson is a perfectly fine tight end, although he’s never totaled more than 22 receptions or 362 yards in a single season. I wouldn’t expect that to change this year, and I wouldn’t consider him anything more than a bye week plug-in if the Lions happen to be facing a poor defense.